A hodge-podge of projects

I can't believe that it has been two weeks since my last post. Time flies when you're having fun (or short staffed at work, at school four nights a week, and terrified of failing a calc test - I think I did OK, for the record).

I don't have a whole lot to post today; personal projects have been on hold while I deal with all of this stuff. Here are some tidbits of information I've come across recently.

It looks like Steve Roberts will be living the nomad's life again, soon. I wish I had the cash, and could talk the wife into buying his property. It's beautiful! It'd be a long commute, though.

I'm loving the Instuctables website! A few of the links below come from there.

Build your own "helping hands". I do question how well the wire will hold up over time, but it's a great place to start. I'd use a small bolt and wingnut instead of the wood screw, too. In the end, free is better than $10, so it's worth it.

Lightweight, strong, ready rack. OK, it's really a guitar stand, but it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see what else you could use it for... PVC projects are pretty easy, although if you have the budget I recommend using a tubing cutter instead of a hacksaw. It's much easier to get the correct tolerances that way.

Make a smoke "bomb". It's pretty straight forward. I haven't tried it, but it's a good one to stick in the back of your head.

Cleaning damaged electronics equipment. Saves me the trouble of writing it myself. I'm not sure about using gasoline; I'd probably try the device after toothbrush+shower.

The Road Warrior Powerbook. Good for a laugh, and an example of making beat-up hardware work for you.

That's all I have for now. Let me know if you run across anything exciting that you think I'd be interested in.


One of you younguns fetch me my walker!

I'm only 27, but this past week, I've been feeling old. Why? This is my first week going back to school to pick up my associates in engineering. I dropped out of university in '99 and haven't been back since. Youth: it's all around you!

I went to the bookstore on Tuesday to get my books and get my picture ID printed. I was called "sir" at least three times by the student workers. On the plus side, I could see that I got a lot more respect than the kids. More time, more patience, more customer service. I even got the occasional nod of approval.

I then putzed around for an hour or two waiting for my first class to start; there wasn't much point in taking the 25 minute drive home. I walked around, looking at notices on the walls, that type of thing. They have a Linux club starting; I may need to check that out once I get used to my workload.

Finally on Tuesday I went to my first class: Introduction to logic. Yeah, it sounds like a BS class, but it was that or nothing. I tried to get into Chemistry, but they were way over booked. I got there about fifteen minutes early and watched people walk into the room, looking for people to "relate" to. That in and of itself is a sign of the improvement in my maturity over the past eight years. I didn't care who my classmates were before, I wanted to do the work and get out.

Anyway, as I watched these people file in, they looked pretty typical... bimbo and stupid boyfriend that looks like he should be way below her, a couple of bigger sized nerds that reminded me of my best friend in high school, a pretty boy, a jock, and a few people who are just there because they're not ready for the real world yet. Then a guy walks in. He looks maybe a couple years older than me, starting to bald a bit, stocky, wearing a plaid jacket with a furry lining (like you might see on a farm), and wearing a long sleeved shirt under a striped polo. He looked like he had a clue, and might be someone good to pair off with for class projects and such.

Turns out, he would be a great person to do that with - he was the teacher! How's that for making you feel old? The person in the room you could most picture going out for a drink with after work is your teacher! My wife just laughed at me when I told her that...

My Wednesday Calc class was a bit better; there was another guy taking the class after a long break from school. The teacher earned points with me when I found out he has two sheep and twenty chickens. Homesteaders rock!

You know, I believe that attitude is the most important attribute to success in school. In high school I did well because I tried harder than everyone else (which wasn't hard...). In college, however, trying harder wasn't enough. To succeed, you really had to stay on top of things and be disciplined. This time, I'm ready for that (I think).


Book Review: One Man's Wilderness

Let me just start by saying: "Wow!" This is a fabulous book. I had seen "Alone in the Wilderness" and "Alaska: Solace and Solitude" on PBS a few times in November and December and decided that I must have this book. Santa was good to me, and I was not disappointed.

Dick Proenneke moved to the Alaskan Wilderness in the late 1960s. He built a cabin by hand, using only hand tools. He cut his own timber, milled his own lumber, and hauled his own stone. He was a carpenter, mason, farmer, fisher, explorer, protector, and homesteader.

"One Man's Wilderness" is mostly comprised of Dick's journals of the first year. Although it's not a how-to manual, there is certainly a wealth of practical information to have. He talks about the problems he faced and the solutions he came up with. He discusses living with wildlife and some of the pitfalls he came across.

As I read the book, I longed to be there, in that unspoiled land. I think deep down, most of us do. What man could honestly prefer the dirty, crowded streets of modern cities and suburbia to the freedom and relaxation of relative solitude? I know I wouldn't. To not have the clock constantly rushing you, the incessant ringing of the phone, the stack of email offering to improve your life through more borrowing; what could be better?

The first publishing of "One Man's Wilderness" was in 1973. There was one passage that touched me to the core, which is even more relevant today.

"News never changes much. It's just the same things happening to different people. I would rather experience things happening to me than read about them happening to others. I am my own newspaper and my own radio. I honestly don't believe that man was meant to know everything going on in the world, all at the same time. A man turns on the TV and all those commentators bombard him with the local, the national and the international news. The newspapers do the same thing, and the poor guy with all the immediate problems of his own life is burdened with those of the whole world."

"I don't know what the answer is. In time, man gets used to almost anything, but the problem seems to be that technology is advancing faster than he can adjust to it. I think it's time we started applying the brakes, slowing down our speed and slowing down the world."

One Man's Wilderness, pg. 212-213

I wonder what Dick would think about the web, RSS feeds, ipods, message boards, and all the other tools we use to fill our heads with the worries of the world?